I still remember the first real conversation I had with Blind Melon. It was about our mutual interests – incubus and being blind buddies. It felt a little bit surreal because here was a man that I’d spent the last eight or so years listening to at every opportunity that I’d got and there we were chatting like old friends.
Melon was one of the first friends I had at NEWFM. I’m always intrigued by passionate people and John Williams is one of the most passionate people I have ever met in my 24 years, to this day I feel so blessed to have been able to call him my friend in the short time that I knew him.
There’s no denying that Melon was different, it was literally possible to hear him before you saw him, with his harmonica always in hand. He hosted a show called Homegrown for a while and I never missed a broadcast – it was a display of Australia’s talented musicians and Melon had interviewed nearly every single one. One of my favourite stories was when he interviewed the John Butler Trio and asked them how they came up with their name with the most deadpan face. He was a true larrikin.
I almost feel like Blind Melon was larger than life, even the way he dressed is engrained into my head as a permanent outline. Leather Jacket, Rolling Stones Tongue T Shirt, Pimp Daddy hat and a pair of aviator sunglasses topped with an absolute swag of a walk that would make James Brown jealous.
I remember the day Melon came in with a limp like it was yesterday. The limp didn’t seem to get better and Melon told me he thought it had something to do with a car accident he’d been involved in a few years ago. Before too long he’d added a walking stick to his outfit. I made a comment that it was only a matter of time before the pimp daddy added a cane. Later he let me know that I helped him cope with the embarrassment.
Melon’s condition didn’t seem to improve, in fact, it got worse. We were all worried, Melon was written into the tapestry as a Newcastle Icon and people missed hearing him on air. He has been to all kinds of doctors to find out what was going on. We were all curious, worried and waiting to find out.
Mid September Melon called us into the boardroom at work. He’d finally been given an answer. Melzy had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and was losing use of his motor skills. He had been given 14 months to live.
Devastated, I only got halfway home before I had to pull over and have a big sob. A man who had taught me so much about my craft and inspired me to become the person who I was would not be here to see next Christmas. I thought about his Mum the most, who I really am thankful to have gotten to know.
Over the next few months, Melon did not act like a person whose time was running out, for lack of a better term. There was so much enthusiasm and passion about living every last moment to the fullest that was truly inspiring. I don’t think I’ll ever be as strong as he was.
Melon passed away on February 19th 2011 peacefully, I’d gone to visit him the day before and although he could only move his lips and his eyes, he was happy. Surrounded by the people he loved who had come together over the past few months his eyes lit up as we chatted about our lives, our hopes and our dreams.
I’ll never forget the lessons John ‘Blind Melon’ Williams taught me – and I learned so many from him he never even realised. He told me a week or two before he died how grateful he was to be the person he knew that got this disease, because he’d achieved everything he’d ever wanted from life.
Nothing is ever as bad as it seems. Persistence may be annoying to the people around you, but it pays off. Be comfortable and confident in yourself.
And when making a radio commercial… sheep are always funny.
-Thanks the Luke Hetherington for making this audio file.